I grew up in the Roman Catholic church and every year during the season of Lent, conversation would swirl about what we were giving up. A lot of people gave up food items – chocolate, meat, soda. Adults might have given up things like alcohol or swearing.
As I grew in my faith education, I learned about giving up things that would help me make roomfor Christ in my life. I could give up an hour of television to study scripture or a book on a Christian topic. I could give up complaining and be a more positive person to be a better example of Christian love. These are still great ideas!
Now that I’ve been a church “professional” for several years, I’ve learned some history about our calendar and how the traditions of seasons like Lent and Advent came to be. Both Lent and Advent were seasons of fastingbefore major holidays. Lent is the 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter, and Advent is the 40 days before - you guessed it - Epiphany. If someone reminds me in December, I’ll write another whole post about why it isn’t Christmas. Historically speaking, these 40 day fasts were meant to temper our “worldly desires.”
But we treat the seasons of Advent and Lent very differently. During Advent, we mark off our calendars; in some traditions we go as far as opening little doors to reveal daily treats. What a contrast to the idea of fasting we think of for Lent. We spend the season of Advent anticipating the joy of Christmas. The tradition of fasting, while it gives us opportunities to open ourselves to Christ, can sometimes have the unintended consequence of drawing our focus to our own suffering.
So what if we thought of Lent more like Advent? The eager anticipation. The joy of preparing ourselves, not for new birth, but new life in the resurrection. As we watch the flowers coming back to life, we can be grateful that Christ’s resurrection means we can stand before God, free of our sin. Yes, we can still make room for God in our lives, and we can do it out of the joy gratitude that we have already been saved through Grace, not by our own deeds and suffering.
It is my favorite moment in Christmas worship in every church I’ve gone to. The lights dim, the music starts, everyone gets quiet, and the fire from the Christ candle on the Advent wreath spreads through the church as we pass the flame from candle to candle. Silent Night ...
It was another kind of silence that brought this beloved hymn to life. In 1818 at a chapel near Salzburg, Austria, Christmas preparations were underway when organist Franz Gruber found that the organ had failed and wouldn’t work for Christmas. A young priest, Joseph Mohr, had written some lyrics a couple years earlier and asked Gruber to set them to a tune they could sing easily with guitar accompaniment to replace the organ.
People liked it, but they mostly forgot about it. When the organ was repaired several years later, the organ builder found the music laying with the organ pipes, had it published, and it was a hit!
We are full of expectations during the Christmas season. The perfect gifts. Perfect family time. Perfect music. We’ve spent the entire season of Advent working and waiting for everything to come together, for the wrapping to come off, for school to let out, and to finally light that fifth candle on the Advent wreath so we can share the light of Christmas with each other. Silent Night ... What a testament to the promise of Christmas that even when things don’t go according to plan, we still receive the gift of God’s love.
Celebrate Christmas with us this Sunday at 6, 8, and 11 pm – each of the services will include communion, candle-lighting, and a weepy music director trying to make his way through his favorite song ...
The 2017-2018 Ministry Magazine is available in print at Lord of Life or by downloading the file below!
God challenges us to love with reckless abandon, see the best in others, and celebrate the gifts, talents, and contributions of all people. God invites us to live as people of hope!
I recently went to a big box home improvement store and was more disoriented than usual. A short walk through the main entrance set me on a holiday parade unlike any I’ve ever seen.
Right inside the front doors, I was in the land of pumpkins and scarecrows, ghosts and headstones, spiders and even an 8-foot tall, lighted Darth Vader yard inflatable. Just a few steps later, I took a trip to Pilgrimville, surrounded by a floor to ceiling display of turkey-shaped items, autumnal decor, and a cornucopia centerpiece bulging with plastic gourds, corn, and feathers. Not to be outdone by these two “minor” holidays, the rest of the seasonal featured area was populated with a virtual forest, complete with artificial evergreens, sparkling lights, and glistening bows of every size and color.